Dairy plant shut down and arrests for new melamine cover up

Just when you thought it was safe to return to China, or at least buy ingredients, the melamine scandal resurfaces. The Shanghai Panda Dairy Company was shut down the last week of 2009, almost a year to the day that inspectors discovered melamine tainted-milk products in late Dec. 2008. According to the China Daily authorities sealed off the factory and recalled products from Shanghai and seven other provinces, but only after an eight month delay in notifying the public about the problem.

According the reports from China, authorities knew about the problem as early as Feb. 2009, but waited until the last week of Dec. 2009 to let the public know. This raises the question as to whether both Chinese manufacturers and authorities can be trusted in regard to safe ingredient sourcing.

The general manager of the dairy and two other employees were taken into custody after officials discovered that the company sold melamine contaminated dairy products even after authorities demanded that all tainted product be destroyed after the original melamine contamination case in 2008. Officials discovered the contamination in four batches of milk powder for the elderly and four batches of condensed milk.

In June China passed food safety regulations to combat the problem, but this recent event adds further doubt as to whether China can overcome a history of corruption. A Dec. 2009 survey by Horizon Research Consultancy Group said that 59.2 per cent of respondents think corruption among government officials hurts China's image the most. Counterfeit and shoddy products were listed as a major concern by 44.1 per cent.

Also in December, Chinese officials discovered that another dairy, Shaanxi Jinqiao Dairy, sold 5 tons of melamine contaminated powdered milk. Both of these discoveries raise questions about whether the Chinese food safety system is capable of producing safe food products. To date this recent contamination issue is contained within China and there are no reports that any ingredients were exported out of the country.

If your company has found a way to navigate safely through ingredient sourcing channels in China, FI editors would like to hear from you. Leave your comments here or email the editor, [email protected].

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